Thursday, October 15, 2009

A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou

posted Sun, 10 Oct 2004

I just returned from 6 ½ hours at Sears Automotive Center. What a fine way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Apparently, Sears is the only auto repair place in the US that has figured out that some people have to be at work Monday through Friday from 7:30 to 5:30 and do not have someone at home who takes care of all those little chores like car and home repair.

The project manager, also known as the tyrant and the cause of Stuart Little Distress Syndrome (Stuart Little is not his real name, but will do for purposes of this column), said the other day that people were so inflexible at work – that no one was willing to come in before 7 or to work late. I don’t think he was joking. Stuart doesn’t do humor.

I told him that was ridiculous – that people should just delegate all those household chores to the person who stays home all day. [Editor's note: I cannot figure out what I was trying to say here. It doesn't follow the previous statement.] Stuart has a stay-at-home wife, which is the latest trophy accessory for the young manager on the go. He is at work before 7 and doesn’t leave until after 9. He better start saving money now for the therapy his two children will need and the lawyer’s fees for the divorce once his wife meets a man who actually wants to spend time at home.

Back to working hours. How come Sears is the only place that understands work hours and unmarried people? Why hasn’t the Post Office figured it out? Oh, sure, I can go to the PO on Saturday between 10 and 2, but that’s a little limited. Repairmen don’t come outside of bankers’ hours. Doctors and dentists keep bankers’ hours. If you want to buy glass to repair a broken window, the store is only open bankers’ hours. I see a lot of business opportunities here.

During my six hours at Sears, I also saw opportunities there. I redesigned their merchandising strategy. Put the high-impulse items by the register. If someone needs tires, they know it – they are not going to buy them on impulse, so they can be in the back of the store. They don’t have to be right next to the register.

Make the waiting experience not so – drab. How about a little coffee shop? Maybe Starbucks would like to install kiosks. The market assessment data would be easy to collect. Sears logs the time you enter your work ticket and the time you pay, so there would be data on how many people are having cars worked on at a time. Some of those people might leave the shop and return later with other transport, but a bunch of us hunker down with books and wait it out. It would have been nice to have a nice place to wait with an option to get something to eat and drink.

Maybe even have laptop hookups. Then you could go there during work with your laptop and get work done. Sears could charge and people would pay. I would and I would charge it to my expense account.

I now have new brakes and new tires. I had suspected I needed them, but the drive to Helena yesterday confirmed my suspicion. I have become accustomed to braking well before I need to stop, but Harpo drove us in my car to Helena yesterday and the car didn’t stop so well when he tried braking at the appropriate time. In a voice breathless with near-death-induced adrenalin, he told me that yes, I should consider new brakes and new tires.

I also have them with a $30 discount – 10% of the total. There were some customers at Sears who were so rude and ridiculous that I looked great by comparison. Wilma, the office manager, was so grateful to have me there that she found a $10 coupon in today’s paper for me and made up another $20 discount. She also bought me a soda, thanked me profusely for keeping her day from being horrible (I promise I am not making this up), hugged me before I left, and told me that if I ever needed anything to call her, that she would move heaven and earth to get it for me.

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